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  • Writer's pictureSusan Carr

The Imposter Squirrel

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

I've been mentally down lately. Freelancing is hard work.

Not the kind of hard work you have when working on a significant project at a job.

Not the kind of hard work you do when you need to come in early or stay late.

It's the kind of hard work that decreases your hope, confidence, and trust in your abilities when you are not succeeding as you hoped you would.

It's the kind of hard work that increases your worries about present and future stability, your stress level to the point of exhaustion, and your anxieties to a breaking point.

I have experienced a lot of impostor syndrome this year. When I was hired as an executive administrator for a startup company, I was chosen from a pool of professionals with master’s degrees and people who had already been in the role for years. The expectations and the bar were already set so high that I was immediately intimidated by the position.

I thought that this syndrome continued to be reinforced every time I made a mistake in the position. I succeeded in the job; I excelled in quite a few things. But I could not handle the internal metrics and external criticism if I made a mistake. They just reinforced the thinking that I had no business in this role. It’s one of the reasons I left the company, even though it was the highest-paying job I’ve ever had.

The other day, while looking for Bertrand, this squirrel showed up.

And then, I saw this.

At first, it was hard for me to tell Bertrand from the imposter squirrel. Squirrels do tend to all look alike, you know.

I have now experienced feeling like an imposter in my freelance work.

I was recently invited to collaborate on a project by a publisher. Usually, my projects are working with authors directly. So, when a publisher contacted me, and my goal is to work as an editor within the publishing industry, that impostor syndrome just kicked in.

All the thoughts that surrounded me: “I don't have a degree in English or journalism,” “I don't have any formal training in editing,” “I've only been doing this for a short period.” All these thoughts and self-doubt don’t seem to want to let me go.

I've been doing this since September, three months as of today. And while my earnings still do not meet my financial needs, my status on the Upwork platform has far exceeded expectations. I am a top-rated freelancer with a 96% job success score. This puts me in the top 10% of freelancers who use Upwork for their job.

Charlie Rose interviewed Mr. Rogers, as he is known to many, and he asked this question:

“How many kids are out there who, in 30 years, you’ve influenced, made a difference in, or made them feel something special?”

Mr. Rogers answered: “I don't care how many, even if it's just one. We get so wrapped up in numbers in our society, and the most important thing is that we are able to be 1:1.”

Ah, Mr. Rogers.

One of my long-term authors had written a sweet little novella that I edited for her, and I enjoyed the time I spent working with her writing. I let her know this, and we had a like-minded conversation.

She said this yesterday: “I decided I'd use for my barometer of success: impacting on a 1:1 level vs. worrying about all those numbers like sales, etc.”

This helped change my perspective.

I’m not financially successful on Upwork. Yet. But maybe I’ve been so focused on measuring my success in dollar signs I have failed to realize the impact and positivity I am bringing to those I partner with.

“Susan!!! Oh my gosh, you have no idea how much that means to me! I appreciate the line edits you called out (and your thorough copy edits too!). Thanks also for your kind words. They mean a lot. I'd love to work with you again!”

“Your enthusiasm prompts me to roll my sleeves and get to work!”

“Thank you so much for putting so much care into my manuscript. I really appreciate all your help.”

“I will definitely consider your valuable comments and suggestions, and I hope to continue our cooperation in the future for the other books.”

We get so wrapped up in numbers in our society, and the most important thing is that we are able to be 1:1.

I think if I start focusing more on why I’ve chosen to do this work—so that I can be a positive force in the lives of others—that imposter syndrome might start taking a back seat to the acceptance of my competence.

Bertrand showed me this, too.

If Bertrand can get up his nerve to show that imposter squirrel who rules this yard, who the real pet squirrel is around here, I can, too.

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